|2011:~ 5,730,000 (Estimated)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Pancha-Dravida Brahmins, Tamil people|
Tamil Brahmins are Brahmin Tamil-speaking Brahmins from India, who have primiarily settled in Tamil Nadu and other states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. They can be broadly divided into three religious groups, Gurukkals who follow Saivism, Iyers who follow the Smarthas tradition and Iyengars who follow Sri Vaishnavism.They are sometimes referred as Tam-Brahm or Tambram people as a shortform of Tamil Brahmin. Today Brahmins form 6.75% of Tamil nadus population.
Large scale migrations are generally believed to have occurred between 200 and 1600 AD and most Tamil Brahmins are believed to have descended from these migrants. According to P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, the sages Apastamba and Baudhayana whose sūtras or legislations are followed today by Tamil Brahmins lived in the Telugu-speaking territories to the immediate north of the Tamil country even before the Sangam period. The 2nd century AD literary work Paṭṭiṉappālai written by the Brahmin poet Uruttirangannanar (Kannan, son of Rudra) records the presence of Brahmins and Vedic rites in Karikala's kingdom. The Akanaṉūṟu refers to a vela-parppan or a Brahmin who does not perform Vedic sacrifices. Similarly, other literary works of the Sangam period like the Silappatikaram, Manimekalai and Kuṟuntokai also allude to the presence of Brahmins in the Tamil country. The influence of Brahmins and Indo-Aryan culture, however, began to grow rapidly only during the last centuries of the Sangam period. During the early medieval period, when Ramanuja founded Vaishnavism many Iyers adopted the new philosophical affiliation and were called Iyengars. According to Hindu legend, the sage Agastya is believed to be the first Brahmin to settle in South India. Agatysa is believed to have set up his abode on Podhigai hill near Nagercoil, thereby becoming the first Tamil Brahmin.
Though, Tamil Brahmins have been classified as a left-hand caste in ancient times, Schoebel, in his book History of the Origin and Development of Indian Castes published in 1884, spoke of Tamil Brahmins as "Mahajanam" and regarded them, along with foreign migrants, as outside the dual left and right-hand caste divisions of Tamil Nadu.
Iyers are Smartha Brahmins, most of whom follow the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Shankara and are concentrated mainly along the Cauvery Delta districts of Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Tiruchirapalli where they form almost 10% of the total population. However the largest population reside in Nagercoil, making up to 13% of the Cities population They are also found in significant numbers in Chennai, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Ambasamudram, Palakkad and Trivandrum.
Iyengars follow the Visishtadvaita philosophy propounded by Sri Ramanujacharya. They are found mostly in Tamil Nadu as they are generally native to the Tamil country. They are divided into two sub-sects 'Vadakalai' (Northern branch) and Thenkalai (Southern branch).
The sect of Sivāchārya or Gurukkal (Tamil: குருக்கள்்்) form the hereditary priesthood or in the Siva and Sakthi temples in Tamil Nadu. They are Saivites and adhere to the philosophy of Shaiva Siddhanta. They are well versed in Agama Sasthras and follow the Agamic rituals of these temples. Because of these cultural differences, intermarriages with other Tamil Brahmanas are rare even to this date. Gurukkals are sub-divided into Tiruvalangad, Conjeevaram and Thirukkazhukunram.
As per the Hindu law books and religious scriptures, Brahmins were expected to lead a spiritual life and devote their lives either to the study and propagation of Vedas and Hindu scriptures or function as temple or household priests. However, we have evidence that Tamil Brahmins were involved in other occupations even during the Sangam period. The Akanaṉūṟu refers to a vela-parppan or a Brahmin who does not perform Vedic sacrifices. The Silappatikaram records the presence of Brahmin minstrels and musicians. The inscriptions of the Later Chola period record that a significant proportion of the Brahmin community of the village of Ennayiram was involved in trade. Brahmins fought in large numbers in the Later Chola army and there were a number of Brahmin civil servants in the Chola administration. Some of them rose to become Senapathis or army generals.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brahmins.|
- Accurate statistics on the population of Iyers are unavailable. This is due to the fact that the practice of conducting caste-based population census have been stopped since independence. The statistics given here are mainly based on estimates from unofficial sources
- "Tamil Nadu brahmin population"
- "Brahmins seek reservation in education and employment"
- "Tamil Brahmins slowly becoming an vote bank in politics"
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